I visited the picturesque town of Tavira on the Algarve last January along with 4 photographer friends and my sister who is very talented wedding and portrait photographer. Tavira a pleasant town full of narrow winding streets and some fine examples of Portuguese architecture.
Our first night was spent in a convivial local tavern were we sampled a range of local Portuguese drinks purely in the name of cultural discovery. It was all very civilised and only one of our party suffered any injuries of note after tumbling on the way home. Thankfully, her nose broke her fall. The next day we decided to actually put all that expensive camera gear we had lugged all the way to the Algarve to some use. And so after a sufficient recovery period from the night before, we headed into town to the area around the ‘Roman’ Bridge.
The Ponte Romana or Roman Bridge is the best known landmark in the town. I have to point out the bridge isn’t Roman at all but was built during the later Moorish period. The name however has stuck. The following photographs were taken over several days.
Ponte Romana Reflection at Dusk
Aperture: f16 | Shutter Speed: 6 sec | ISO: 100 | Focal Length: 36 mm
This was taken just after sunset on a very calm clear evening leading to some very pleasing reflections in the shallow River Gilão. Above the bridge, you can see the spire and clock on a church sitting on the hill that overlooks the town (Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo Tavira). Next to this church is an old water tower that has since been converted into a giant camera obscura that projects live panoramic views of the town onto a concave surface. It’s well worth a visit and is of course of particular interest to photography nerds!
Ponte Romana – Long Exposure
Aperture: f22 | Shutter Speed: 13 sec | ISO: 100 | Focal Length: 26 mm
The following day, I decided to experiment with my new 10 stop neutral density filter. This time, I set up my tripod on the far side of the bridge. The filter allowed me to set a a shutter speed of 13 seconds which created the motion blur effect in the water.
Ponte Romana at Night
Aperture: f11 | Shutter Speed: 8 sec | ISO: 100 | Focal Length: 13 mm
That evening, I returned to the same location, where first shot was taken from. This time, the sky was full of dramatic clouds which I think made for a far more interesting shot of the bridge and town beyond. This time, I used a wide focal length of 13 mm to include as much of the dramatic sky as possible. A big element of getting interesting photographs is luck especially when it comes to weather.
Ponte Romana at Blue hour
Aperture: f11 | Shutter Speed: 5 sec | ISO: 100 | Focal Length: 20 mm
As the blue hour period of the evening commenced, I took a few photos on the bridge itself. I had to wait a while for somebody to walk into the frame at just the right place in order to provide some human interest. I find that much of photographing a scene is spent waiting for that ‘decisive moment’ as Henri Cartier Bresson called it.
With a successful night’s shooting done, we headed back to our favourite little Portuguese bar for another evening of cultural activity and witty discussion.
* Only one photographer was harmed in the making of this blog post and I promise we didn’t nickname her ‘Potato Nose’ for the rest of the trip.
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